Classical

Dmitri Shostakovich: Life During Wartime

It must have been terrifying to be an artist in the Soviet Union during World War II. Classical composer Dmitri Shostakovich seems to have done the best he could at time when a bad review from one person — Stalin — could do literally what bad reviews from critics only do figuratively.

Here is what Wikipedia said about the Seventh Symphony, which was written during the war:

After the outbreak of war between the Soviet Union and Germany in 1941, Shostakovich initially remained in Leningrad. He tried to enlist for the military but was turned away because of his poor eyesight. To compensate, Shostakovich became a volunteer for the Leningrad Conservatory’s firefighter brigade and delivered a radio broadcast to the Soviet people About this sound listen (help·info). The photograph for which he posed was published in newspapers throughout the country.[29]

But his greatest and most famous wartime contribution was the Seventh Symphony. The composer wrote the first three movements in Leningrad and completed the work in Kuibyshev (now Samara) where he and his family had been evacuated. Whether or not Shostakovich really conceived the idea of the symphony with the siege of Leningrad in mind, it was officially claimed as a representation of the people of Leningrad’s brave resistance to the German invaders and an authentic piece of patriotic art at a time when morale needed boosting. The symphony was first premiered by the Bolshoi Theatre orchestra in Kuibyshev and was soon performed abroad in London and the United States. However, the most compelling performance was the Leningrad premiere by the Radio Orchestra in the besieged city. The orchestra had only 14 musicians left, so the conductor Karl Eliasberg had to recruit anyone who could play a musical instrument to perform the symphony.[30] The Leningrad Shostakovich reportedly had in mind was not the one that withstood the German siege. Rather, it was the one “that Stalin destroyed and Hitler merely finished off.”[31]  (Continue Reading)

He seemed to have real guts, according to ClassicalNet:

The severe restrictions placed on art by Stalin and Khrushchev also helped cause Shostakovich to become disillusioned. Always afraid of official condemnation, he followed the leads of Ludwig van BeethovenPiotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky, and Modest Mussorgsky by writing music with profound themes buried underneath dominant themes of a banal nature and completely opposite sentiment. For his political safety, Shostakovich managed to keep his own voice while complying with the government’s policy of “socialist realism” – art depicting the triumph of Leninism and the complete, if contrived, optimism of Soviet life. Still, Shostakovich was disciplined by the cultural authorities on several occasions, particularly when all of the USSR’s leading composers, including Serge ProkofievAram Khachaturian, and Nicolai Myaskovsky, were denounced for “formalism,” or decadent avant-gardism, in 1948; this coming after a period of war when artists had greater creative freedoms. (Continue Reading…

Here is more on the topic of Shostakovich and Soviet power.

Above is the beautiful “Waltz No. 2” and below is “Can Can” performed by the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. To be honest, it’s too jumpy for my taste. I included it, however, because the performance is great, the video clear and, most of all, conductor Hans Leenders is awesome.

Our New Thing: Analog Tech for Non-Audiophiles

To date, TDMB has focused on music and musicians. We will continue to do that, of course. We're also expanding our coverage to include vinyl and analog equipment.

More specifically, we'll look at this huge and interesting world from the perspective of music lovers who want a better experience, not committed non-audiophiles.

Check out what we've written so far:

-- 7 Quick Tips on Optimizing Your Turntable Cartridge

-- Why Vinyl Records Continue to Thrive

-- Finding the Best Amplifier

-- Finding the Best Phono Preamp

-- What Speakers Do I Need for My Turntable?

The site also includes The Internet Music Mapping Project, an effort to list and describe as many music-related sites as possible.

Our Music

--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

--Radiohead to ZZ Top (R to Z)

Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

🎼🎺🎻🎹🎷🎶🎵


What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

🎼🎺🎻🎹🎷🎶🎵

The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

Full Disclosure

As an Amazon affiliate, this site earns a commission on every purchase made. All prices remain the same to you.